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Migratory Pathways and Connectivity in Asian Houbara Bustards: Evidence from 15 Years of Satellite Tracking
Published: Wednesday, June 08, 2011
Author: Olivier Combreau et al.

by Olivier Combreau, Samuel Riou, Jacky Judas, Mark Lawrence, Frédéric Launay

Information on migratory pathways and connectivity is essential to understanding population dynamics and structure of migrant species. Our manuscript uses a unique dataset, the fruit of 103 individual Asian houbara bustards captured on their breeding grounds in Central Asia over 15 years and equipped with satellite transmitters, to provide a better understanding of migratory pathways and connectivity; such information is critical to the implementation of biologically sound conservation measures in migrant species. At the scale of the distribution range we find substantial migratory connectivity, with a clear separation of migration pathways and wintering areas between western and eastern migrants. Within eastern migrants, we also describe a pattern of segregation on the wintering grounds. But at the local level connectivity is weak: birds breeding within the limits of our study areas were often found several hundreds of kilometres apart during winter. Although houbara wintering in Arabia are known to originate from Central Asia, out of all the birds captured and tracked here not one wintered on the Arabian Peninsula. This is very likely the result of decades of unregulated off-take and severe habitat degradation in this area. At a time when conservation measures are being implemented to safeguard the long-term future of this species, this study provides critical data on the spatial structuring of populations.
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